Social Media carries with it amazing possibilities. It connects, reconnects, and interconnects us with others in ways never before possible and in volumes that are downright frightening in scope. That in turn exposes new impacts on our societies, our businesses, and ourselves.
Most of those impact points are net positive. Some however, I’m not so sure. The problem with those who truly adopt social media into their lives at any depth (including myself) is that they very quickly learn a basic tenet of social media popularity…’Life is lived at the fringes’.
Life Is Lived At The Fringes
Not ‘real life’ mind you, but the crafted and manufactured version of our real lives. At the fringe exists those activities one might call ‘attention worthy’ in some way.
One end of the fringe contains those things we can post about that are ‘good’ like maybe you just got accepted to the college of your choice, maybe it was your kid who got accepted, maybe you’re experiencing an amazing sunset, whatever. These are the activities and events that we push and expose into social media because they are ‘deserving’ of having people respond with essentially “I’m so happy/jealous/excited for you!”.
At the other end of the fringe exists those items that are no less attention worthy, but for the opposite reason. Perhaps your pet died, maybe you’re sick, perhaps you had a horrible day. These items garner us our sympathetic responses that we crave. “Oh no!” “So sorry” “What can I do?”.
Access Of Evil
Neither of these types of fringes are evil by the way. These exceptional moments, whether dramatized, manufactured or quite literal, aren’t unique to social media. And frankly, there’s nothing particularly wrong about periodically needing these social reinforcements to our psyche regardless of how genuine they are. We all (admitted or not) utilize these fringes in all facets of our lives and it doesn’t make us bad people.
But when you setup an environment in which so much time is spent for many of us, an environment built around scaling relationships where attention is believed to be relative to popularity and success, then I have some unresolved concerns.
Life is what happens when no one is looking
The sticky problem with social media is that these fringes, these moments of exception, are often THE language of social media and now the norm. So here’s my question. If our lingua franca becomes one of primarily exceptional events (“I just made the most awesome lasagna”, “This story just broke my heart”, “Look at this amazing picture of where I’m at”, “Just had the worst day ever”) then where do we actually live our real lives?
When we draw time from those real-world relationships and apply it to social media, we tend to lose the mundane. The mundane is underrated in my opinion. The mundane serves your waking life the same thing your dreams serve your sleeping life. It provides a means of recharging, it gives context and relativity so that you actually know what an exceptional event IS. The joy or sadness that exceptional event should trigger within you should be one of experiencing the event itself, not simply recognizing it as something share-worthy.
To Truly Know Another
I love sharing parts of my life with you. But they are only parts. They are only those that I choose to let you see. Your truest ‘friends’ are not those who are aware of some special thing that just happened, they are the ones who know that you’re just sitting on your couch bored out of your mind.
Matt Riding – @techguerilla